Editorial comment: Diabetes reality

Diabetic Jone Nuku Marau and wife Sainimili Tawase at their home in Naivikinikini, Lami. Picture: JONA KONATACI

Jone Nuku Marau is a former police officer. At 57 years old, there is one thing he regrets. He lost his parents and three siblings to non-communicable diseases.

So now, with his legs amputated after being diagnosed with diabetes, he lives with his regret.

With a career that spanned 20 years, he now realises how his choices contributed to the life he now lives. He regrets not looking after his health. In 2014, he was hospitalised with numb legs and was diagnosed with diabetes.

“I did not care about my health, I ate unhealthy food, I was a heavy smoker, drank a lot of kava and alcohol,” he said.

It was normal for him to be drinking kava with friends after work until 4am and going to bed on an empty stomach.

“Another thing that contributed to my sickness was eating junk food during grog sessions. That was the norm. It is called chaser.”

In 2019, his health condition worsened which led to one of his legs being amputated and just two weeks ago, he lost the other leg.

“My condition is getting worse, I also suffer from kidney problems, heart disease and liver complications. Now, I have to use a wheelchair and I need someone to help me around the house to go to the washroom and so on.

“I can’t work to support my three children and wife. We don’t have a source of income. When I retired from the Fiji Police Force in 2021, I had only one leg and I was using crutches to go to work.”

His brother, Rupeni Temo, 66, had his legs amputated after he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2016 and is being cared for by his niece. Of the five siblings, the two men are the surviving members.

“Our parents died of NCDs and our three brothers too, including one of our nephews who was also diagnosed with diabetes,” Mr Temo said.

“Please have medical checkups every month because in my case, I did not know I had diabetes until I got a sore leg and took it to the doctors, by that time, the disease had spread all over my legs.”

Mr Marau advised all Fijians to “watch what you eat and maintain a healthy lifestyle”.

This story must be told. It must generate interest.

It must attract attention because this is the harsh reality of our lives now. Far too many people are being diagnosed with diabetes.

It is a silent killer in our midst! We live and we learn.

We must remind ourselves about our diet, our health and the choices we can make daily.

We must remind ourselves about the importance of exercise, and the need for reflection on our lifestyles.

We wonder whether Fijians have become too busy to take time out for their health! We wonder how much ‘cost of living’ factors in when we discuss diabetes.

We wonder how various scenarios around us can become contributing factors. In the end though, there is a need for lifestyle changes.

This isn’t an easy thing to do. However, it is critically important in the fight against diabetes.

That much we know for certain!

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